Time: A Business Owner’s Best Weapon Against Negative Yelp Reviews

By Todd Bacile, Ph.D. | October 14, 2014

Negative Yelp Reviews

Negative Yelp reviews are a concern for business owners. The cause for worry is due to various studies illustrating that negative online reviews can decrease consumers’ purchase intent and can decrease revenue by sizable amounts.Hate us on Yelp

My research on social media complaints and the impact of consumer-generated comments directly relates to Yelp. Negative Yelp reviews came up in a discussion at an industry conference where I was the keynote speaker discussing social media’s impact on business.

“What can we do?,” asked a small business owner, who was concerned that the negative comments would impact her business. Her concern is legitimate.

The Problem of Negative Reviews

Negative reviews generally have a greater impact on a person’s perception of a business versus positive reviews. This negativity-bias can be traced to economics’ and psychology’s theory of loss aversion, where a loss (i.e., something negative) is a more powerful piece of decision-making criteria versus a gain (i.e., something positive).

In the context of online reviews, positive comments are not nearly as memorable or impressionable as negative comments and complaints. Yet, there may be a useful strategy to combat negative reviews that every business owner has access to: time.

Temporal Cues & Negative Reviews

A study recently published in the Journal of Marketing Research highlighted the value of temporal contiguity cues in online reviews. The inclusion of temporal cues, such as a review written on the day of product consumption (e.g., comments including “today” or “we just went to this place”) had a profound effect.

In reviews which included temporal cues, consumers perceived the value of positive reviews to be stronger, while the value of negative reviews became weaker. That’s right, even a negative review with temporal cues did not become more impressionable, meaning the power of a negativity-bias was diminished.

The study, written by Zoey Chen and Nicholas Lurie, analyzed over 65,000 Yelp reviews across numerous experiments to arrive at the final conclusions. Read the full study for the complete details.

Using Time as a Review Strategy

Theoretically speaking, the study is fascinating. In a managerial context, here’s an operational strategy to benefit from the findings of the study: ask for reviews – be it positive or negative – immediately! Create marketing communications or retail signage promoting the importance of posting a review “today”.

If it fits within your business model, provide incentives to consumers, such as offering a freebie item or discount for “posting your positive or negative review and mentioning you came in today.” If you have front-line service workers be sure a quick line is communicated to customers (e.g., “We would love a review – please explicitly say you were in here today!”)

If you’ve exhausted your efforts as to how to get negative reviews removed, the findings from the study and the suggested strategy above may cause your business to not suffer as much from negative Yelp reviews.

This is a unique spin on the old adage, “Time heals all wounds.”

Dr. Todd Bacile (@toddbacile) is a marketing professor at Loyola University New Orleans, a marketing consultant, and a professional keynote speaker who features presentations on social media marketing, search engine marketing, online complaints, online reputation management, and customer service issues at corporate and industry conferences. He holds a Ph.D. in marketing from Florida State University. Social Media Marketing Magazine ranks him as one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter. Have a question or comment? Post it here and you will receive a response.

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Social Media Complaints: An Example of the Tip of the Iceberg Effect

By Todd Bacile, Ph.D. | July 31, 2014

Tip of the Iceberg EffectSocial media complaints are a new challenge to firms. The connected-consumer now has a platform to efficiently disseminate an unfavorable message about a company or its products to the masses.

Social media complaints produce what I refer to as the Tip of the Iceberg Effect. You may be wondering, ‘What is this effect?’ An example which happened to me this week will nicely illustrate it.

Poor Customer Service

To briefly summarize, I had a bad experience with a car I rented from Enterprise and National Car Rental. Soon after driving away with my rental car I discovered an issue. It reeked. A heavy smoker had used the vehicle. Plus, there was a sticky substance on the steering wheel. It should have been cleaned better. The time was 1 AM and with small children in the car I decided to resolve the issue in the morning.

A summary of the situation the next morning: phone support was great. They said I could swap the vehicle at any location. No need to go back 45 minutes to the airport where I picked it up. I went to a closer Enterprise location, where a rep agreed to swap the vehicle (“we have plenty of cars for you to choose”). However, his computer told him he couldn’t swap vehicles due to a technicality.

I called phone support back, who then contacted the location’s rep five minutes later to make them swap the vehicle. Now another rep at the location insisted they had no vehicles to swap. “All of our vehicles are reserved,” he said proudly. I felt bamboozled.

I referred to Enterprise’s policy to request a car be brought to my location; and was told that would not be possible. Phone support gave me two choices: drive 10 miles to another location to swap my full size car for a compact or drive back to the airport to **try** to get another vehicle. Like I was trying at that moment with no success. Right.

In the end my wife spent three hours cleaning the smelly, sticky vehicle. Hooray, we’re on vacation!

Social Media Complaints

As a consumer who spent a lot of money, only to receive poor service, I was upset and disappointed. In my opinion, the company was not willing to resolve the issue for me in a fair manner. Thus, I had experienced a service failure. Left without another option, I took my complaint to social media to tell others.

A single tweet to my followers, as well as the Twitter handles of the two rental companies I was having an issue with started the ball rolling. At the time I posted my tweet I had about 1,300 followers. That is 1,300 people who may potentially read about my poor service encounter in their timelines.

Would they all read it? No chance. But, some would. And some did.

My single complaint tweet soon produced 21 retweets and/or modified retweets. A quick calculation of the total number of followers of these 21 people: 13,263. That is 13,263 people who potentially would be exposed to my complaint in their Twitter timelines. There were a few other responses or retweets of responses from various people, which added to the overall reach with an additional 4,252 followers exposed to the tweet.

Altogether, 17,515 people were exposed to some of the details associated with my poor service encounter. That’s a lot. What can I say, other than I have a certain degree of “Klout“.

Tip of the Iceberg Effect

A single complaint tweeted and then retweeted by 21 people. In sheer numbers of consumers in a target market, that is a very small number. However, there was an underlying effect of word-of-mouth communication being disseminated. My complaint and the 21 retweets resulted in a possible audience of up to 17,500+ consumers.

This illustration resembles the physical properties of an iceberg, which often has 90% or more of its structure residing underwater. Moreover, when you view an iceberg peeking out of the water, you are only seeing a small portion of it. Less noticeable to plain sight is a larger structure quietly lurking below.

Tip of the Iceberg EffectSocial media complaints also exhibit characteristics of an iceberg. If a company sees a single complaint and a small number of follow-up social actions by others — retweets, shares, likes, comments, or +1’s — what is noticeable in plain sight may seem like a small number of consumers. However, just as the majority of an iceberg is out of plain sight, the number of followers who are exposed to these follow-up social actions may be immense.

This is word-of-mouth 2.0.

Proactive and Reactive Strategies

The best strategy to avoid social media’s tip of the iceberg effect is to proactively resolve a problem. This means correcting a problem when a consumer first voices before wide exposure. How? Perform a service right the first time, make it easy for consumers to complain, and make the recovery a hassle free experience. If a product can’t be replaced, there are other options (e.g., sincere apologies, showing genuine empathy, or offering a future benefit as compensation).

However, not all companies have the resources to proactively correct a service failure. If not, a reactive strategy may be necessary. A resolution can still be completed to satisfy a complainant, but now the world is exposed to poor service details.

In my case, the rental company chose the reactive route. However, by the time it reached out to me via social media — and four days later via a telephone call to my phone — the retweets and the audience exposure was already in motion. The delay in a resolution also gave me time to become more upset.

The takeaway: fix problems as soon as they occur. Proactive strategies will save your business a lot of negative word-of-mouth. If you must use a reactive strategy to resolve a complaint, try to resolve the issue quickly. Use tools such as Radian6 to quickly find complaints and then use real-time engagement to attempt a resolution. However, negative word-of-mouth has already begun: the number of consumers exposed to a complaint — and the size of the proverbial iceberg — is growing. It is still worth your time to try to resolve the issue to minimize the iceberg.

Dr. Todd Bacile (@toddbacile) is a marketing professor at Loyola University New Orleans, a marketing consultant, and a professional speaker with presentations focusing on social media marketing, search engine marketing, online complaints, and online reputation management at corporate and industry conferences. He holds a Ph.D. in marketing from Florida State University. Social Media Marketing Magazine ranks him as one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter. Have a question or comment? Post it here and you will receive a response.

A Blog: The Path to a Social Media Job

By Dr. Todd Bacile | October 9, 2013

Want a Social Media Job? Get a Blog

blog word cloudI often hear the following question: ‘What can I do to land a social media job?’ My answer: write and maintain your own blog. My work as a marketing professor puts me in a unique position of working with people who have big dreams, yet limited professional experience. Working in social media as a career is appealing to many students. Having a blog is a great first step for several reasons.

A Blog Showcases Writing Skills

A knock against many young people — and U.S. business students in particular — is that writing and communication skills are lacking. Authoring blog posts with some degree of frequency is one way to showcase writing skills. In this way, a blog serves as a portfolio of not only topical areas of expertise, but also the ability to write well.

Writing in Micro-bursts is a Talent

USA TodaySociocultural shifts change how information is disseminated and digested. For example, one of the founding principles for USA Today in 1982 was to write stories geared toward consumers who grew up in TV’s soundbite era. This shift in writing style to shorter stories and inserting more images was a huge win for USA Today. We no longer live in 1982, but similar evolutions in media consumption are occurring.

people checking smartphonesMedia consumption is moving toward micro-bursts of information dissemination. Old “rules” are dying. You need shorter stories. Shorter paragraphs. Shorter sentences. For example, many blogging professionals suggest very brief paragraphs in a blog post. I strive for 60-70 words. Look at something you have recently written: do you write in 60-70 word paragraphs? This is one example of how blogs are unique to traditional writing. It’s a talent to be honed.

The World Needs Content Creators

One of the more popular entry-level positions in social media marketing and public relations is as a ‘content creator / writer‘. Your blog illustrates to prospective employers that you have the baseline skills and knowledge to create compelling content people want to read and share with others. A personal mantra I live by is to ‘Go where the jobs are!’.

A Blog is a Networking Tool

social capital graphicThe more you blog, the more connections you will make. How or what you make of your network is up to you. Every comment, retweet, Like, +1, and/or the action of sharing one of your posts has the opportunity to build your social capital. In this manner, the content you write serves as a valuable springboard to turn posts into conversations; and conversations into meaningful relationships.

The rest is up to you

The beauty of the social web is that there are many experienced people willing to share success stories and helpful social media resources. If you are not an expert, do not get discouraged. Seek out helpful tips and tutorials. You learn by gaining hands-on experience. Writing a blog is no different.

Dr. Todd Bacile (@toddbacile) is a Marketing Professor at Loyola University New Orleans and holds a Ph.D. in Marketing from Florida State University. Social Media Marketing Magazine ranks him as one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter. Have a question or comment? Post it here and you will receive a response.

Has Facebook Heard of ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’?

By Dr. Todd Bacile | September 30, 2013

Facebook & Corporate Social Responsibility

Todd Bacile's Marketing Blog - Facebook and Corporate Social ResponsibilityFor such a young company, Facebook already has created numerous debates about its ethical / legal use of consumers’ information and questionable business decisions. Today’s businesses are expected to maintain a certain level of corporate social responsibility (CSR), defined as a company being responsible for its actions – socially, ethically, and environmentally. CSR often captures headlines in the environmental context. But, it is the ethical context where Facebook skates on the proverbial thin ice.

It seems there is a fine line between a firm being innovative versus unethical. On the one hand, Facebook has continued to push the envelope to develop technologies and a marketing platform never before possible. On the other hand, the push toward new and innovative technologies at times borders on invasive or illegal behavior. The following is a brief list of some of Facebook’s marketing / managerial debacles and legal challenges.

Beacon

The first ad platform Facebook created was called Beacon, which was quickly shut down due to the illegal use of users’ private information. Beacon transmitted data from external websites to Facebook in an effort to create targeted ads. Beacon also made updates in users’ news feeds to announce certain purchase activities. The unethical angle was that Beacon was publishing users’ private information without explicit consent. Ultimately, the courts forced the termination of Beacon and made Facebook cough up a $9.5 million settlement.

The class action lawsuit (Lane v. Facebook) was born from the following sympathetic tale: Sean Lane purchased an engagement ring on Overstock.com. Unbeknownst to Lane, Overstock was one of 44 firms participating in the Beacon system. As soon as Lane bought the ring, Beacon sent purchase data to Facebook, where the social giant then posted a status update of the purchase details in Lane’s profile! Lane began receiving congratulatory wall posts from friends. The only problem was that he had yet to pop the question. Awkward! And illegal according to the courts.

Sponsored Stories

Facebook Sponsored Stories ExampleThis is how Sponsored Stories worked: a user ‘Liked’ a brand, which then enabled the brand to create an ad-like proposition to that user’s Facebook friends. The ad-like template featured the user’s name and image; and looked as if the user was recommending the brand to friends. This design was an attempt to feature an ad that appeared to be organic consumer support (because consumers hate, distrust, and ignore most ads). There was the problem: users claimed Facebook used their likeness to “trick” friends with an ad – without explicitly telling the user.

Taking this a step further, Facebook allows minors to create a profile and use the social network. Facebook’s Sponsored Stories came under attack when some parents began seeing their minor children ‘Liking’ various companies or products, then seeing their child’s name and image used in the ads to target friends. Facebook was forced to kill Sponsored Stories due to consumer backlash and legal pressures: the courts ordered a $20 million settlement.

Postmortem Profiles

Question: what happens to your Facebook account, images, videos, and content when you die? A possible answer: Facebook maintains it status quo of using a person’s information in advertisements. People actually have seen Sponsored Stories featuring a deceased friend. Really.

Then there is the story of Karen Williams and her deceased son. Williams fortunately had her son’s Facebook user name and password. She wanted to review his photos and messages to friends. However, when Williams contacted Facebook to ask that the deceased’s profile be left open, Facebook administrators immediately changed the password and locked her out of the account. The reason: Facebook was concerned about user privacy. Williams pursued and received a court order to allow her access to her son’s account.

These stories have amplified the debate of who owns a person’s digital assets upon death. Facebook has claimed that such instances were accidental; and has since created a memorialized state option. Accidental or not, new legislation is attempting to address postmortem profile access and ownership.

Facebook’s IPO

Facebook IPOFacebook has been under the microscope for allegedly misleading investors prior to its initial public offering. A class action lawsuit claims Facebook execs purposely inflated growth forecasts in an effort to manipulate the IPO stock price upward. More than 40 lawsuits have been filed by investors regarding the IPO.

Gee whiz… whether it is marketing programs, privacy issues, or managerial decisions on finance, Facebook appears to have a history of turning a blind-eye to anyone and everyone in pursuit of its own corporate goals. And that, my friends, is the antithesis of corporate social responsibility.

Dr. Todd Bacile (@toddbacile) is a Marketing Professor at Loyola University New Orleans and holds a Ph.D. in Marketing from Florida State University. Social Media Marketing Magazine ranks him as one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter. Have a question or comment? Post it here and you will receive a response.

Social Media Marketing & Mobile Marketing: A Useful Resource Guide

By Dr. Todd Bacile | August 27, 2013

social media books

A question posed to me from a fellow professor last week was, “What books or resources would you recommend for new media marketing topics?” The following books in each subject area highlight marketing philosophies and paradigm shifts that social media and mobile technologies have introduced. I personally have read each of the resources below and see great value in each book.

Follow the Authors on Twitter

Following each book’s summary is a link to the Twitter account(s) for the author(s). If you want more information or have comments for the authors you can connect with them on Twitter!

Connected Consumers

The End of Business as Usual presents a complex “connected consumer” revolution that is taking place. Ubiquitous mobile connections and social networks have created a network economy and interest graphs, where consumers easily share experiences and influence others. The author, Brian Solis, points out that a firm’s marketing audience has now become an audience with an audience of audiences, among many other unique perspectives.

Socialnomics posits that social media has created a people-driven economy through connected networks. The author, Eric Qualman, makes several interesting points, while serving up memorable quotes such as, “The 30-second commercial is being replaced by the 30-second review, tweet, post, status update, and so on.”

Information Transparency

Youtility shows the reader how helpful, useful, relevant information supplied by a firm is turning traditional marketing upside-down. The author, Jay Baer, uses several useful statistics and easy-to-read charts to support his positions. There is business value in these numbers!

Influence Marketing with Social Scoring

Return On Influence presents the topic of social scoring metrics such as Klout and PeerIndex. The author, Mark Schaefer, is well known for his social influence consulting work and discussing Klout on his blog. Influence marketing is controversial for some people and often creates a lot of buzz. This book illustrates how influence and social media go hand-in-hand. In effect, “Influence has been democratized.”

Second Screen Marketing

Social TV shows that the internet has not killed TV. Instead, this book posits that the internet has become TV’s best friend! Examples and cases illustrate TV programs are social; and in combination the web, social media, and mobile devices serve as the second-screen lightning rods to amplify consumer-to-consumer conversations about TV shows. The authors, Mike Proulx and Stacey Shepatin, use strategically placed and QR codes to link to “bonus” content.

Social Media Marketing 101

Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach is geared toward a college course, with a nicely designed array of chapters focusing on social media marketing strategy and planning. The book contains an eight-step social media marketing plan model, along with a completed plan for a fictitious company. The authors are Melissa Barker, Donald Barker, Nicholas Bormann, and Krista Neher.

Mobile Marketing 101

Go Mobile presents a nice array of mobile marketing strategies and topics that any marketer should be familiar with. Mobile optimized ads, SMS campaigns, mobile apps, tablet computing, and location-based marketing examples are plentiful.  The authors, Jeanne Hopkins and Jaime Turner, have a chapter devoted to how several Fortune 500 firms use mobile marketing.

Fundamentals of Mobile Marketing: Theories and Practices is a nice supplement to the prior text. This book delves into a highly technical summary of mobile’s evolution, along with several academic theories and models prevalent to ubiquitous devices. The author, Shintaro Okazaki, is a widely published European marketing professor.

E-Commerce

E-Commerce 2013 is a detailed text delving into the world of E-Commerce, in more detail and in a manner much different from all of the other social and mobile books discussed in this post.  While this book presents many cases and chapter information that intertwines with social and mobile, the book is devoted to E-Commerce with a progression through an intro section, the technology infrastructure, business concepts, and E-Commerce in action. The authors are Kenneth Laudon and Carol Guercio Traver.

The Microblogging Mindset

The Tao of Twitter is the best book I have found that steps a person through the beginning stages of learning to Tweet to advanced Twitter usage relevant to business goals and strategy. The author, Mark Schaefer, is the same author on this list for Return On Influence and Born to Blog.

Twitter Power also takes a humorous – and useful – look into Twitter. You know the book will have some fun content when you realize that the author, Joel Comm, was the inventor of the iFart app.

The Blogging Mindset

Born to Blog  walks the reader through the beginning stages – and struggles – people may have when blogging. It then progresses to tips and writing techniques needed to become a successful blogger, regardless of your industry. The book contains several personal experiences of the blogging challenges and triumphs that the authors, Mark Schaefer and Stanford Smith, have gone through.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive for the sake of maintaining brevity in a single blog post. There are many other excellent resources available; and in many other topic areas. What books have you found useful to navigate social and/or mobile media?

Dr. Todd Bacile (@toddbacile) is a Marketing Professor at Loyola University New Orleans and holds a Ph.D. in Marketing from Florida State University. He teaches Electronic Marketing and Advanced Marketing Strategy.  Social Media Marketing Magazine ranks him as one of the Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter. Have a question or comment? Post it here and you will receive a response.